Responding to the call of conscience...
Jennifer Bowman interviews Jason Miller
Jennifer Bowman: So let’s cut right to the chase. In some of your recent writings, you’ve indicated that you’re dealing with some serious challenges in your life right now. What are they?
Jason Miller: Aside from the systemic backlash resulting from my vigorous activism, I’m dealing with a number of serious personal issues. Some of these were self-inflicted and some weren’t. Either way, I need to deal with them.
I was so absorbed in my activism for about a year that I let certain aspects of my life get away from me, in a manner of speaking. As many of you may have already read, I’m a recovering alcoholic (since 1992—hence my straightedge beliefs). However, I got away from some of my spiritual and intellectual efforts to manage my passion and set aside working the Twelve Steps, which tends to land me into trouble. Fortunately, I’m back on the path I need to follow, which still includes veganism of course, and have turned to the painful task of cleaning up my messes.
JB: What do you mean by “systemic backlash resulting from your vigorous activism?”
JM: I’m referring to the overt and covert ways in which law enforcement and the institutionalized animal exploiters have violated my First Amendment rights and imposed various forms of political persecution on me. This piece I wrote elaborates on both, “They cannot shackle the truth, gag those who speak it, or blind us from seeing it…” (http://freepress.org/departments/display/1/2010/3902) or at (http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Practical/Shop–ToDo/Activism/ShacklingTheTruth.htm)
Here is a quick summation, excerpted from that piece:
“What does each of these (my activist) actions have in common? They are non-violent and legal (excepting the one instance of civil disobedience). And yet, I am out-of-pocket $6,000.00 in legal expenses; was arrested and am on 12 months probation; am the subject of a year-long FBI investigation which has included visits to friends, AR allies, co-workers, and relatives; have a TRO against me (which I was too green to fight last year, not realizing that TRO’s obtained against activists are a violation of our First Amendment rights); am fighting three additional TRO’s related to the KU Med campaign; was a victim of serious First Amendment violations by law enforcement during one of our demonstrations; and am banned from the KU Med Center campus under threat of arrest for criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor offense which would be a violation of my probation.”
JB: Why such a strong negative reaction to your activism?
JM: I don’t know for certain, but I think there are a number of plausible explanations. Animal Rights activism in Kansas City was rather moribund until a few close local allies and I revived it at the beginning of last summer. That coupled with the fact that I reside in the heart of the Bible Belt (where anthropocentrism rules) and in the midst of factory farm country, make me and my aggressive agenda to agitate for Animal Rights generally unwelcome. Throw in my affiliation with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office and my philosophical support of militant direct action and you’ve got a “perfect storm” of suspicion, concern, and hostility brewing against me.
JB: In the piece you mentioned earlier, you wrote, “I recently learned that when law enforcement runs me in their databases, an alert comes up with my “FBI number,” a warning from the Terrorist Screening Center that I could be on a terrorist watch list, and advice to law enforcement to USE CAUTION when dealing with Miller.” What do you think of this?
JM: As I wrote in that essay, I think it’s absurd. I battle the animal exploiters and the corruption of the system that enables them through protests, demonstrations, creative legal tactics, engaging the media, writing, publishing Thomas Paine’s Corner, investigative work, leafleting, educating, speaking, and via the legal system. While I support underground direct action philosophically and by providing underground activists with a media platform in which they are portrayed as the freedom fighters that they are, I don’t engage in such actions, nor do I know the people who do.
Allow me to reiterate, “While those with a vested interest in the ongoing torture and slaughter of billions of defenseless nonhumans portray and treat me as a criminal or potential terrorist, I am neither. I am a man who has responded to the call of conscience to become a voice, a writer, a publisher, and an activist for nonhuman animals. And so I shall remain.”
JB: What is your connection with Walter Bond, the alleged “ALF Lone Wolf?”
JM: I have no actual connection with him. I wrote a prisoner support letter to Walter, as I have to many of our political prisoners. He has responded twice to my one letter. Both times he gave me permission to publish his missives, so I did. I’ve not met Walter, but I respect and support him, as I do each of our imprisoned comrades.
JB: What do you see as the role of Thomas Paine’s Corner?
JM: Thomas Paine was a radical who was so far ahead of his time that he was essentially cast out of the pantheon of the Founding Fathers, despite the fact that he was the intellectual catalyst of the American Revolution with his wildly popular pamphlet, “Common Sense.” I chose to name my blog after him because of his vanguard radical thinking. Many of the ideas that I publish, assert and advance on Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) are ahead of their time, particularly the notion of Animal Rights and liberation.
TPC’s role is to educate, inspire, amplify the messages of others, report on activism, agitate, and inform. While I find myself primarily devoting it to AR issues, TPC is still eclectic in that it supports animal liberation, anti-capitalism, Earth liberation, anti-imperialism, and human rights.
JB: Why the campaign against the University of Kansas Medical Center and what is happening with that campaign?
JM: I decided to launch a campaign against KU Med Center several months ago because their primate vivisection program had been flying under the radar screen far too long. They rake in millions of dollars in grant money each year to addict monkeys to morphine, subject them to withdrawal, infect them with SIV (the simian analogue of HIV), and drill holes in their skulls to do brain map testing. They were also cited by the USDA for an astounding 160 violations of animal welfare laws and have had a formal complaint filed against them (in May 2010 by SAEN) since they allegedly cleaned up their act. Their primate vivisection program needs to be shut down!
Three vivisectors at KU Med recently filed TRO’s (temporary restraining orders) against me. This is a tactic commonly employed to cripple or shut down activists. I was hit with a TRO in our campaign on behalf of the deer in Shawnee Mission Park (aka Death Park) last year and a number of activists whom I know have been hammered with TRO’s. My attorney and I are fighting these KU Med TRO’s and will be filing a brief with the court making a strong legal argument that employing a TRO (also referred to as an order of protection) against an activist is a violation of the First Amendment. We are blazing a new trail and intend to set an important precedent for AR activists around the country.
In addition to the legal challenge of the TRO’s, we have a host of other irons in the fire with respect to KU Med.
JB: What do you see as your role in the Animal Rights Movement?
JM: I am intelligent, persistent as hell, and naturally indifferent to what others think of me, which suits me well to be a writer, voice, agitator, street protester, and publisher on behalf of the animals. Based on my self-imposed trip to rock bottom in the early 90’s and subsequent ascension to firmer footing via soul-searching, philosophizing, self-help, and cognitive and Twelve Step work, I also bring a spiritual component to the Movement, which I think is inspiring to some activists. I want to thank Steve Best, who was my mentor for a couple of years, for shaping me as a thinker and as an activist and for helping me carve out my niche in the Animal Rights Movement.
JB: What’s the point of your “tactile activism” you’ve employed? Like pouring blood over your head and openly delivering a severed deer head to the people who were carrying out the deer cull in Death Park….
JM: My purpose in utilizing tactile activism is to take abstract concepts, like the blood and severed body parts of the animals whom people are killing, and to present them in a public forum and via the media so that people can experience the tangible results of the holocaust our species is inflicting on other sentients. This tactic has been controversial, to say the least. Even within the Movement. Yet I see it as another valid and creative way in which we can attack the prevailing paradigm of speciesism and wholesale animal exploitation.
JB: Last question. Will we win the battle for the animals?
JM: Ultimately, if we persist and our successors persevere, humanity will bring nonhuman animals into its moral sphere and grant them their basic and essential rights to live free of murder, torture, enslavement, and exploitation. For our species to survive, we need to adopt the non-exploitative, non-violent philosophy of vegan anarchism. If we don’t, I think that the Earth will erase us from existence. Either way, it’s a win for nonhuman animals.
Jennifer Bowman, TPC’s senior associate editor, has been an ethical vegetarian for 17 years and a vegan for two years. Having realized that nonhuman animals experience suffering when she was five years old, she has empathized deeply with other sentients since a very young age. She has rescued many animals over the years and feels more comfortable communing with nonhumans than socializing with humans. She is a passionate Animal Rights activist and manages Thomas Paine’s Corner’s significant presence on Face Book.
Jason Miller, the Senior Editor and
Founder of TPC, is a tenacious vegan abolitionist and animal
rights activist who lives in Kansas. He has a boundless
passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted
to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he
studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of
Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the widely
read radical blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner. Jason is an
accomplished, prolific essayist and his writings on social
and political issues have appeared on hundreds of
alternative media websites over the last few years. He is a
press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press
Office, and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots
animal rights activist group which he started in Kansas City
in 2009 and through which he and his allies give animal
exploiters some serious hell. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org